NHS England business continuity management toolkit case study: evacuation

Organisation: Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
Incident: evacuation

What happened

A community hospital in response to a flooding incident implemented their business continuity planning arrangements and safely evacuated the patients in their care.

On a Monday morning, staff noticed a failure of IT and telecoms. The hospital has a small in-patient capacity, a minor injuries unit, an x-ray department, numerous outpatient clinics and other disciplines of health staff.

The facilities team investigated the situation and 0.5 metres depth of water was found in the basement of the hospital due to a burst pipe. The basement is the hub for IT, the panel board and telecoms. Assistance was requested from Kent Fire and Rescue who began to pump water out of the basement. Oil was found to be in the water and the Environment Agency were requested to attend to assess the situation. Later than afternoon a total power failure occurred.

The minor injuries unit remained closed for seven days and the hospital for nine days whilst an action plan was put in place to recover services. Staff confirmed no negative impact on patient care or the organisation’s reputation. This was endorsed at a patient group meeting by a patient who spoke highly of the management of the incident.

Action taken

The organisation managed to continue to provide safe care for the 12 in-patients for a period of nine days while the hospital remained out of action.

A business continuity incident was declared, and the hospital was declared closed. A command and control structure was invoked and an incident management team (IMT) including the CCG was established utilising an office at the hospital as an incident control centre (ICC).

Communications with partner organisations were opened and GPs, NHS England local acute trusts were advised of the situation.

The hospital sourced alternative in-patient beds from other local community hospitals for the patients affected, as was part of the service level business continuity plan. Transfers were arranged with the assistance of the local NHS ambulance service provider, with the last patient being transferred in the early evening.

During the recovery period, daily contact continued with the CCG and staff based at the hospital were transferred to the local community hospitals that patients had been evacuated to, allowing the patients a degree of continuity of care.

Lessons identified

A number of lessons were identified:

1. The decision to open an incident coordination centre (ICC) to provide strategic oversight of the emergency response worked well and benefitted the response.
2. Organisations need to understand the scope of the contracts for their sub-contracted services.
3. The use of ‘standby’ is a useful tool to alert partner organisations to potential incidents and this.